Bob HostetlerI am no marketing genius, and though I’ve written forty-five books, I still have much to learn about author and book publicity. But I recently felt like I got something right with the book launch for my latest book, The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional, a book of daily reflections drawn from a quote from Shakespeare and a verse from the King James Version of the Bible (which were both created in the same period, country, and city).

The Bard and the BibleGo where people are

I’ve done many book signings, and while some went better than others, they were far more stressful than successful. I hated having to call in favors and twist arms to get people to come to the book signing. Yuck. But for the launch of The Bard and the Bible, I thought, Why try to get people to come to me when I could go to them? What that meant for a book that draws from the works of Shakespeare was getting permission to schedule my launch events at free “Shakespeare in the Park” performances near my home. I first contacted the theater company to make sure they had no objection, and then sought permission from venues that were hosting two of the events, on a Friday evening and a Saturday afternoon). Not only did both venues say “yes” (after all, the more people who come to the performance, the better exposure for them, right?), but they gave me prime real estate to set up a book table, hand out flyers, and give away free stuff related to my book. Since hundreds of people attend these free performances, I had a ready-made crowd of people who presumably were already interested in my subject.

Of course, it wouldn’t have worked as well if my book were about quilting or zombies. In such cases, of course, it would make sense to plan a book launch at, say, a craft fair or Comic-Con. It takes off so much pressure, instead of trying to attract people (or force them) to come to your event, to simply go where your “tribe” is already gathered.   

BobH1Strike a theme

Once I knew my book launch would be held at a performance or two of Shakespeare’s plays, I shopped around for a costume so I could dress as the Bard. This was harder than I expected; shopping online is a gamble, and I didn’t want a cheesy costume. But I eventually found out (by asking friends on social media for tips) about a wonderful consignment and costume shop just forty-five minutes from my house. A full costume (including hose and shoes) cost a pretty penny (nearly $400!) but I got the look—and the quality—I wanted. I even grew a mustache and beard after Shakespeare’s style, much to my wife’s chagrin.

Costumes aren’t the only way to strike a theme, of course. Posters and banners can be affordably printed these days. If your book is a historical novel, set your theme to fit that period. If you’re launching a cookbook, set up a tasting. If it involves an airplane, make available a paper-airplane-folding station. Think in terms of what will grab people’s attention and draw them to your table, booth, or display.

BobH2Spread the word

Knowing I would have a ready-made crowd at my book launch events took off a lot of pressure in trying to attract a crowd and persuade family and friends to come. Still, I planned my publicity efforts a couple months in advance and used email, website, social media, and affordable paid advertising to let as many people as possible know about the events. I also coordinated with staff at the venues hosting the events, who kindly included my participation in their mailings and other publicity for the events—without charge. I asked specific friends in the area to help me spread the word by sharing and retweeting my announcements, and took care to thank them for their efforts.

These days, of course, you have to be careful not to overload people’s Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds with blurbs about your book launch, but today there are more ways than ever to spread the word economically and effectively.  

BobH3Hedge your bets

When I first consulted the “Shakespeare in the Park” schedule for my book launch, I had many performances to choose from. I also know that Friday and Saturday evening shows are better attended than others, but nearly all of the venues are outdoors, which means they are “weather permitting” venues. I did not want my book launch to be rained out. However, I noticed that the Friday after my book’s official release date was in a favorite venue of mine, a beautiful vineyard setting about thirty minutes from my home—and an indoor matinee was being offered the next day! Plus, the Friday performance was Macbeth, while the Saturday offering was Romeo and Juliet. I figured even if Friday’s performance was cancelled, scheduling an indoor venue for the next day was one way to hedge my bets, so to speak. And since they were two different plays in separate parts of the city, I hoped that there would be little—if any—overlap in the crowds (and I was right). Another way I hedged my bets was to enlist my wife and daughter to man the book table so I could be free to wander, hand out printed materials, and engage people’s curiosity (or pity).

Your circumstances will certainly be different. But you can still hedge your bets by thinking through, “What happens in case of rain? Sickness? Traffic? Lost shipments?” and so on.

BobH4Give stuff away

One reason book signings can be such a drag is that most people entering a bookstore don’t already know you, but they know you’re hoping to sell them something. But one way to defuse that dynamic at a book launch event is to make it clear you’re giving away stuff—at least some stuff. On the table at my book launch I placed a placard stating, “THESE ITEMS FREE—prithee, help thyself.” On that end of the table was Shakespeare-related merchandise (bookmarks, postcards, etc.) . . . and varieties of Smarties candy (because Shakespeare was a “smartie,” of course, and because chocolate candy melts in August heat). I also made sure my hosts and the director of the play received free copies of the book because, well, one thing could lead to another. I also handed out several hundred full-color cards with the book cover on one side and “fun facts”—along with the book’s landing page web address (www.bardandbible.com) on the other side.

One of my regrets is that I didn’t give away more stuff—and that I didn’t advertise a drawing in exchange for email signups. Next time.

There is, of course, much more I could say, and my efforts were far from perfect. But they did make “much ado” about The Bard and the Bible, so all’s well that ends well.

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Bob Hostetler (www.bobhostetler.com) is a self-confessed Shakespeare nut, award-winning writer and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His 45 books include the historical novel, Northkill, and the one-year devotional, The Bard and the Bible. Bob and his wife, Robin, have two grown children and five perfect grandchildren.

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Hi everyone! Pamela S. Meyers here. I’m sure you’ve all had times when the best laid plans…well you know the old cliche. I had one of those days last week, but I learned some critical lessons how to make sure your planned promotional event goes off without a hitch.

I had a scheduled speaking and signing event to promote my book, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. This was an afternoon I had been looking forward to since it was in a unique setting – A retirement home. Little did I know how much this event would turn out to be a learning experience for me.

I planned to show my Keynote presentation (Apple version of Power Point), read an excerpt from the book and then sign the book for any who
wanted to purchase one.

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During my Reading They Laughed in the Right Places!

Before I left, I remembered a suggestion someone had made to me to save the slideshow on a flash drive, and I decided to copy it to one that used a memory card. I packed the car and took off, allowing myself about fifteen minutes wiggle room, only to be delayed by road construction!

I arrived ten or fifteen minutes past the actual I’m I planned to arrive, feeling very frazzled. Did I mention we were in the middle of a heat wave? Already the ladies were filing into the room, and I began to unpack. That’s when I suddenly wanted to fall through a trapdoor in the floor.

I’d forgotten my computer!

No problem. I had the presentation saved on the memory card and my new projector had a USB slot for a flash drive. No problem, except …the slot was vertical—not horizontal—and the memory card was too wide. The projector’s outer casing blocked it from going all the way into the slot. I was doomed. But. . . the staff person who invited me had a Mac. Whew! Except she didn’t have Keynote installed.

Long story short, the facility’s resident techie saved the day and got the program to open and the rest of the afternoon went without a hitch. . . until I left and went to use my phone. Dead as dead because I forgot to turn off the GPS after I arrived. But that’s another story.

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I Love it When Someone Buys My Book!

Other than entertaining you with the story of my wacky day, and rejoicing with me over God’s provision of workarounds, I hope you picked up on a lesson learned.

Before you go out to any promotional event have a checklist of all the items you need to take. I just made one for myself. You may design yours a bit different, depending on the types of events you do, but if you’d like a PDF of mine, shoot me an email at pam@pamelasmeyers.com and I’ll be happy to send you one.

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